All of our dogs are fed a complete and balanced raw diet, we feed a large variety to ensure our dogs are getting correct ratios and values of each nutrient.
Dogs are facultative carnivores, meaning they thrive off of a sole prey animal diet, however, unlike cats and ferrets, who are obligate carnivores, they do have a cecum, making them capable of absorbing a small amount of nutrients from plant matter. The cecum, which is responsible for most plant matter digestion, through micorbial digestion, is quite small in dogs, therefore we do not account for much nutritional value coming from plant matter as they are often in a non bio-avaiable nutrient form which dogs lack the ability to digest and properly absorb these forms of nutrients.
The raw diet is a very broad diet for dogs, each person will have their slightly different take and there are multiple different guidelines that can be followed. Some people believe veggies, seeds and nuts are required, whereas others will believe nutritional needs can be met through utilising more parts of an animal. It's important to do what works best for your specific needs at the time and be open to changing and trying out new things, either way, your dog will benefit greatly from a fresh, biologically appropriate diet!
BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)
The BARF diet consists of meat, bone, organ, vegetables and supplements to meet nutritional needs.
This diet follows a basic 70/10/10/10 rule: 70% meat, 10% bone, 10% vegetable, 10% secreting organ (with 2-5% being liver), however this can vary depending on who you ask, some prefer to add up to 20% veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts.
PMR (Prey Model Raw)
The PMR diet is designed to mimic whole prey by utilising all aspects of an animal, to meet all required nutritional needs.
With this diet, you can follow a basic 80/10/10 rule: 80% meat, 10% bone, 10% secreting organ (with 2-5% liver). This is a perfectly fine rule set to follow, especially for starting out to keep it simple. To go one step further, you can look into nutritional values of each different item to balance even further. Ideally you would feed 30% of the meat portion as non-secreting organ meat, to mimic the natural muscle meat to organ ratio of whole prey.
The most nutrient dense organ. Liver is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, choline, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K.
Liver can be fed from any species, although ruminant species are preferred, chicken and other poultry liver are too high in vitamin A to be fed regularly. However, it is ideal to switch things up every so often, using varied species. Liver is generally high in vitamin A, which is toxic in larger amounts; Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so any excess will continue to build up in the body and potentially into toxic levels, avoid feeding in excess, keeping liver between 2-5% of the total daily meal.
Percentage guide (in order of recommendation):
Lamb – 4% of total daily meal (most balanced with vitamin A, copper, and zinc).
Beef/Ox – 3% of total daily meal (highest in copper).
Goat – 4% of total daily meal.
Venison – 4% of total daily meal.
Pork – 5% of total daily meal with copper supplement if feeding long term (no bio-available copper content).
Poultry – 2% of total daily meal.
Duck – 1% of total daily meal (highest in vitamin A, not recommended)
Other Sectreting Organ
Includes kidney, spleen, pancreas, ovaries, brain, thymus, eyeballs, and testicles, the easiest to source will be kidney and spleen. Try to mix it up as much as you can and source from different species as well as different organs to include a variety of nutrients. For example, kidney is higher in copper, selenium, vitamin B2, B5, B6, B9, and B12 as well as vitamin A, whereas spleen is higher in iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and vitamin C.
Secreting organs are the highest concentration source of nutrients in the diet, so this portion of their meal is especially important.
Often, we use the term 'offal' but note heart, lung, trachea, pizzle, uterus, tongue, tripe, and gizzards are non-secreting organs, therefore these are fed as meat.
Bone is any edible bone, this means soft and crunchable, the reason we need bone in the diet is for the calcium and phosphorus. This is where things might get a bit trickier as you need to exclude the meat, fat, cartilage, and ligaments from the bone weight, and add those to the meat percentage, not the bone percentage.
Some good rules of thumb:
Chicken Neck - 75% bone, 25% meat.
Chicken Drumstick - 27% bone, 73% meat.
Chicken Wings - 44% bone, 56% meat.
Chicken Frames (whole or mince) - 60% bone, 40% meat.
Chicken Feet - 60% bone, 40% meat.
Beef Brisket - 35% bone, 65% meat.
Additionally, poultry are typically fast grown protein sources; when using chicken and poultry bones increase the bone percentage to at least 15% and lower the meat percentage accordingly. Poultry bones must be fed at a higher percentage to meet calcium requirements in the diet. Raw chicken bones are, for most dog breeds, the safest option to feed, they are softer and easier to crunch with their teeth; larger, more dense bones can result in tooth fractures.
Another good source of bone for adults is beef brisket bone, available from most butchers, it is soft enough for them to crunch and swallow, but hard enough that they need to apply force and use their teeth, which helps to keep their teeth clean and break away any build-up of calculus. I also recommend chicken feet for adults as once again it is a harder bone but won't fracture teeth, another benefit to chicken feet is the natural glucosamine and chondroitin, highly beneficial to your dog's joint health.
Now above I mentioned bone needs to be edible, any hard bones must not be given to dogs as these will cause obstructions if swallowed, or fractured teeth if chewed. Harder bones include any weight bearing bones e.g., leg bones and marrow bones, as well as most other ruminant bones including spines, tails, ribs, etc. The bigger the dog the more powerful the jaws are, so larger breeds can eat harder bones, but always watch your dog when eating a new bone for the first time, ensure they are making quick work of crunching up the bone and they are not straining in any way. This information also goes for dried bones as chew treats, I highly recommend avoiding these at all costs.
Includes muscle meat, tendons, fat, ligaments, and cartilage as well as any non-secreting organ including heart, lung, trachea, pizzle, uterus, tongue, tripe, and gizzards. Ideally, you will feed at least 30% of the meat portion as non-secreting organ.
Heart is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B12. Tongue is a good source of magnesium, potassium, zinc and omega fatty acids. Lung is a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin B9. Including these three to most meals is ideal to meet nutritional gaps that muscle meat cannot fill.
Different cuts of meat and different species will have different nutrient values, using a variety of sources or rotating meats is good to help balance the diet. It is always good to avoid using chicken meat due to its low nutrient value. Note also chicken mince is usually minced chicken frames; unless it states it is boneless or for human consumption; chicken frame mince must have the bone content calculated for.
Some people will suggest feeding fish as a meal topper, others will include it in the meat percentage. Whole fish (i.e. sardine) is definitely fed as a meal topper, as whole prey is already balanced in itself, however, straight fish meat contains more than enough nutrients to be fed as meat. Fish is the best source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin D and omega fatty acids, as well as being a good source of phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B2, B3, B6 and folic acid.
Dog can synthesise omega 9's in their body, but not 3's and 6's, however, the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is easily met through the feeding of certain fish, this will improve the skin and coat, add shine and lessen shedding, improve nutrient absorption and organ function.
It is recommended to feed only Atlantic mackerel (not king mackerel), anchovy, herring, sardine, rainbow trout and salmon, for their increased levels of omega 3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, whilst also avoiding mercury poisoning.
Raw fish containing thiaminase must be stored separately from meat. Thiaminase is an enzyme that metabolises thiamine into two parts, rendering the nutrient inactive and unable to be absorbed, leading to thiamine deficiency. Lightly poaching or steaming thiaminase containing fish until completely heated through, will render the thiaminase inactive, and therefore unable to break down thiamine.
Vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts
Now whether you choose to add this to your dog's diet is up to you, I will only lay down the facts. Dogs have a predominately carnivorous digestive tract with a small caecum with no direct connection to the ileum, accounting for little microbial digestion. Microbial digestion is needed for the breaking down of plant matter, including seeds and nuts.
This means the bioavailability is questionable for a lot of nutrients, raw plant sources are almost entirely unavailable for absorption by a dog; this goes for any vegetable, fruit, seed or nut, even though these items contain high levels of nutrient values. This is entirely the reason we choose to feed raw over a commercial diet in the first place, nutrients not being in a bioavailable form for dogs, which is not accounted for when it comes to the nutritional values on the packaging. Some people suggest cooking and pureeing to increase bioavailability, others swear by feeding plain and raw, and some choose to only source fully bioavailable raw meat options to fill nutritional gaps.
As nature intended, whole prey items are balanced in themselves. With optimal ratios in accordance with their nutrient values, including fur/feathers and stomach contents. They can be fed as a whole meal or something to add on top of a meal. They don’t need to be portioned into the meal's percentages, but they do need to be included in the daily amount fed to avoid overfeeding. Whole prey items include whole sardines or fish, which can be easy to source and feed, but can also include other species, including rabbits, guinea pigs (cavies), rats, mice, chicks and chicken, duck, pigeon, and quails, available to purchase frozen from most pet stores, other reptile feed suppliers or hunters.
The fur from these whole prey items is potentially a great source of manganese (species depending) which is a very important nutrient, often lacking in raw diets. Although the bioavailability is unknown in many species, there is no negative to feeding fur, only potential positives. Fur on ears can be purchased online or through some pet stores, this avoids the need for whole prey for owners who choose not to feed this way.
To provide complete nutrition in a raw meal, the use of meal toppers as an added extra (not calculated into the meal component percentages) is important. Note, do account for the extra caloric value of any meal toppers (reduce total meal values).
Especially from pasture fed cattle, is a great source of collagen and omega 3's for joint health. Research has shown that the stem cells within bone marrow can reduce inflammation. Be sure to just scoop out the soft marrow within the bone, and do not feed the actual bone itself, as this is far too dense and will fracture teeth.
Easy to make and a beneficial addition to any diet. Bone broth is an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, great for gut flora and digestion and wonderful for ill and old dogs, providing hydration in a palatable form.
Simply simmering bones (preferably bones containing joints like feet and hocks) and a small amount of organic apple cider vinegar (must include 'the mother') into a large pot of water for 12-36 hours, then straining out the bones, storing the liquid and allowing to cool into a jelly like consistency. Remove the layer of fat off the top (do not feed cooked fat); you can reuse the same bones 2-3 times before throwing out (do not feed cooked bones). This jelly created is bone broth.
Recommended feeding guide 1/8 cup to 1 cup per day, you can't 'overfeed' bone broth, so add as much or as little as your dog likes.
Is a probiotic, packed full of beneficial bacteria, crucial for gut health and digestion. The probiotic levels in kefir are one of the highest sources you can provide for your dogs.
This can either be purchased from the supermarket ready to feed or made fresh at home. To make kefir, you will need whole milk and live kefir grains. 1 tbsp of kefir grains to 4 cups of whole milk to a jug, cover the jug with either a couple layers of paper towel or coffee filters, and secure with a rubber band to allow the grains to breathe, without introducing bugs or debris. Set in a warm, dark spot for 24 hours or until thickened with a fermented smell and it's ready to feed (if the kefir separates into two parts, this just means it's been left slightly too long, but is still 100% fine to use and feed). You can also make kefir in the fridge however this will slow down the fermentation process. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze into ice cube trays.
To make a new batch, we can use our previous fermentation effort. Save 1 tbsp of the previous kefir grains and add to 4 cups of whole milk.
Recommended feeding guide is 1-2 tbsp per day.
May be beneficial, although we are unsure of the bioavailability of the nutrients; they are incredibly high in calories, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamin B1, B6, B9, vitamin E and omega fatty acids, although also very high in phosphorus which may unbalance the calcium to phosphorus ratio. Depending on bioavailability levels, this may easily meet the requirements of magnesium, vitamin B1 and vitamin E, so I would recommend adding to the diet.
Recommended feeding guide is 1tsp per 500g of food, 3-5 times a week.
Can be a great source of vitamin E and biotin (vitamin B7), nutrients that can be hard to source. Eggs must always be fed whole with both whites and yolk or only feeding the yolk. Within egg whites, is a protein called avidin, which binds to the nutrient, biotin, rendering it unable to be absorbed, potentially leading to biotin deficiency. The egg yolk contains a very high concentration of biotin, whereas the egg white contains only a small amount of avidin, so the biotin loss is negligible when fed as a whole egg.
Drying out and grinding the shells into powder, will also provide calcium, which will help to balance out the calcium to phosphorus ratio in the diet. Eggs are also a good source of magnesium, vitamin B2, B9, choline and vitamin D.
Recommended feeding guide is 2-4 large eggs a week.
Provide an excellent source of zinc and manganese, which are some of the hardest nutrients to provide in any diet for dogs (commercial diets often utilising non-bioavailable forms of manganese). Shellfish can also be a good source of magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin B9, B12, vitamin E and omega fatty acids. Oysters are high in zinc, Blue Mussels are higher in manganese and Green Lipped Mussels are an excellent source of chondroitin. All shellfish must be cooked or steamed before feeding, to eliminate the risk of toxoplasma gondi infection.
Recommended feeding guide is 1-2 mussels 3-4 times a week, and 1 oyster once a week.